1972 Nashville 420 - Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway - August 26, 1972

Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway Track History

File:1911 nashville fairgrounds.jpgThe historic Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway is the second oldest operating motor speedway in the United States.  The only speedway with a longer history of operations is the Milwaukee Mile, which held its first race in 1903.  The Fairgrounds Speedway's opening predates that of the  Indianapolis Motor Speedway by four years.  The first automobile race held at Nashville's  Fairgrounds speedway took place at the dawn of the automotive age on June 11, 1904.  At that time, the track was configured into a one and an eight-mile dirt oval.  Soon automobile races became an annual tradition and events would occur in conjunction with the Tennessee State Fair until the 1940's.   Pictured at right is the start of a race at Fairgrounds Speedway from 1911. 


1958 ConstructionIn 1958, promoters Benny Goodman, Bill Donoho and Mark Parrish reconfigured the track into a half-mile paved oval (1958 construction photo at left).  On July 19, 1958, Charlie Griffin of Chattanooga won the first race held on the new track.  Weekly races featuring both local and national drivers became a fixture of the track along with the annual (later bi-annual) appearances of the NASCAR Grand National / Winston Cup series.  In 1969, the present 5/8-mile configuration was established with 35 degree banked turns.  The first Grand National race on the new banking was televised live on ABC's Wide World of Sports in 1970.  The tracks high banks generated a great deal of speed as evidenced by the qualifying laps of the time period.  The record for the 35 degree configuration is held by NASCAR star Bobby Allison.   The Hueytown, Alabama based Allison qualified his Chevrolet Monte Carlo at a blistering 116.932 mph for the 1972 Nashville 420.  However, the 35 degree banking proved to be too treacherous for the local sportsman racers and were modified after the 1972 season to the current day 18 degree banking.


During the seventies many of Winston Cup's biggest stars visited the Nashville track with sell-out crowds in the grandstands (including the 1972 Nashville 420 pictured at left).  Unfortunately, time and economics eventually lead Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway to be stricken from the ranks of NASCAR's Winston Cup Division in 1984.  At the time Fairgrounds Speedway was owned by California businessman Warner Hodgdon and his bankruptcy filing caused NASCAR to pull its premier series from the track.  The track continued to host weekly NASCAR series racing as well as the NASCAR Busch Series and Craftsman Truck Series until the year 2000.  Those races would move to the new Nashville Superspeedway in 2001.


During 2020, the City of Nashville entered into discussions with Bristol Motor Speedway / Speedway Motorsports, LLC, to explore the possibility of bringing the track up to current NASCAR CUP Series standards. These upgrades would include improvements to the grandstands as well as adding garages and space for team hauler parking. The track would be managed by Bristol Motor Sports and could possibly bring NASCAR racing back to the track by the 2022 season.  An artist’s interpretation on the improved Fairgrounds Speedway can be seen at left. “Bristol Motor Speedway and Speedway Motorsports are thrilled to take this step forward with Mayor Cooper, the Fair Board, Metro Council and the neighborhood stakeholders,” said Marcus Smith, president and chief executive officer of Speedway Motorsports and Bristol Motor Speedway. “We can work together to transform Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway into an amazing multipurpose entertainment destination. We’re ready to roll up our sleeves and go to work to fully restore the speedway, recruit national events and breathe new life into a venue that has a legendary status in auto racing history.”


Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway Track Memorabilia

Late Sixties/Early Seventies track logo Winston Nashville 420 Banner Seventies Seating Chart

Photo Notes

I began attending Grand National races in Nashville during 1972.  The collection of pictures contained on the website were obtained from driver postcards obtained at the track, postcard from the internet and photographs taken at the race track.  The track pictures taken from 1972 to 1980 were made with a Kodak instamatic 126 and an Anseco Pioneer 616; 1982 through 1983 with a Pentax 35mm and 1984 with a  Nikon FG.  All track photos are indicated with applicable race on individual car webpage.

I would also like to acknowledge  Russ Thompson, Tommy Marchman, Fred Marchman, Evelyn Hylton, Ray Lamm,  Ray Pentecost , Benny Quinn, Mike Alexander, Tony Roberts, Ray Binkley Jr., David Mudd along with the photo achieves of The Tennessean for the contributions that they have made to this project.  The overall quality and thoroughness of the site would have been impossible to achieve without their photographic efforts.



This website is dedicated to the drivers, teams, track officials and fans that have made Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway one of the south's great sporting attractions.

 This site is also dedicated to my parents for enduring many pre and post races hours while I took photos, helped independent drivers in the pits and collected postcards.


Nashville 420.com publisher Jeff Droke in August 1973, in Nashville with Walter Ballard Racing's Mercury and back at the Nashville track in April 2015, with NASCAR legend James Hylton.  Droke was a member of the Hylton Motorsports team for a number of years.


Special thanks to The Drake Motel for the hospitality offered to my family when we came to Nashville for the races


Website is property of Jeff Droke

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